School children in northern Ghana are standing for peace
Newly formed Peace Clubs in the Upper East Region as part of resilience-building in anticipation of Sahel Crisis spill-over
Be it through football, skits or open discussion, children in Ghana’s Upper East Region are finding ways to cultivate peace in their schools and communities. This is due to the formation of new after-school ‘Peace Clubs’, formed as a result of the threats of a spill-over of the Sahel crisis, to respond to the arrival of displaced children and their families from Burkina Faso to Ghana.
At St Theresa’s JHS in Paga, Kasena Nankana West district, a few kilometres from the border, a group of 67 children between the ages of 12 to 17 years have joined a peace club to learn more about living in harmony with new arrivals into their community.
Today, about 20 children belonging to St Theresa’s Peace Club are performing a drama about how to live in harmony with family and newcomers to the community. Fourteen-year-old Magdalene Babweiwa, 15-year-old James Adutani and 14-year-old Ominatu Yahaya were the protagonists of the drama. “I feel sad that our neighbours are in danger,” Magdalene told UNICEF as she reflected on the reality for those facing the challenges of conflict and displacement. “We wouldn’t be able to farm, go to school. I wouldn’t even be able to fetch water,” she added.
“I enjoy attending Peace Club,” James explains. “I learn about how to live with strangers, and I want to be able to share with them and treat them with kindness. I know that if I treat others with kindness, if I travel away from here, others will also show me love,” he beams.
Another member of the Peace Club is 14-year-old Hectorina Kanmong. Today she is a spectator of the drama. She tells us: “I enjoy attending Peace Club. As a result, I no longer fight. I used to be quite aggressive, but now I like to practise peace.”
“Peace Club has shown us to be more friendly, to help others and to share our things,” added Ominatu.
With the support of UNICEF, in partnership with the Government of Japan through the Community Resilience Building Against the Sahel Spillover Project, Ghana Education Service (GES) has successfully established 262 Peace Clubs in all schools across two border districts in the Upper East Region. Recognising that peacebuilding plays a key role in supporting the settling of displaced persons, schools situated in regions close to the border of Burkina Faso where skirmishes have broken out, have prioritized the establishment of Peace Clubs as the communities are gradually seeing an influx of displaced persons.
In Sapeliga KG/Primary school in Bawku West – another town nestled at the border of Ghana and Burkina Faso - football matches between communities, and dramas are being used to spread the power of peace and to foster unity.
Teachers and other school workers use opportunities at the start, half time and at end of matches to inform players and spectators alike of the benefits of cultivating peace and the steps to take when encountering strangers, which includes informing the local authorities.
Bawku West is home to an unsteady number of migrants who are arriving from Burkina Faso to escape the conflict in the country. Weekly, families arrive to informal settlements to seek sanctuary in Kaare, with the number of migrants doubling from 110 to 235 in the space of 12 months.
UNICEF Education Officer Timoah Kunchire added: “Beyond the information absorption of learning about the importance of peace, girls and boys are developing their confidence, and soft skills of creativity, and public speaking.”
Ayimga Michael, headmaster of Sapeliga KG/Primary School: “We are happy that so many children in our schools are able to take part in the Peace Clubs. We are very thankful to UNICEF for their support of our children. It has allowed us to really inform and engage our students about this important life-long skill.”